United Way campaign jumps off to strong start

Monday, November 26, 2012

After struggling to meet its campaign goal the last three years, the United Way of Southeast Missouri staff is feeling positive about this year's campaign, having already received pledges for 78 percent of its $950,000 goal.

This year's fundraising goal remains unchanged from last year, when contributions came in a little short at $940,000.

More than 75 percent of the United Way's workplace campaigns have increased their donations this year, said Kim Voelker, United Way campaign coordinator.

"We asked them for a 5 percent increase, but some of them really blew it out of the water," Voelker said.

She attributes 2012's to-date success to the addition of several businesses that hadn't previously hosted United Way campaigns but are doing so this year. The businesses include NARS, FruCon, Element 74, Signature Packaging, VIP Industries, Isle of Capri, Excel and the Perry County School District.

A new training program helped the local staff learn from successful practices found at other United Way campaigns throughout the country, Voelker said.

Local schools and businesses also are getting creative when it comes to their fundraising efforts. Whether it's having a school principal kiss a pig, students selling stick-on mustaches, managers dressing up for Halloween or businesses raffling prime parking spots, they seem to be coming up with clever ways to help the United Way.

The early success of this year's fund drive is good news for the more than 50 programs in 36 local agencies it supports. Every agency is seeing an increase in those asking for assistance.

"It's a different group of people now," said Denise Wimp, director of First Call for Help. They are "people who are working, but what they make isn't enough as the prices of things go up."

Requests are increasing for help to pay electric bills and rent, she said. More people also are struggling to buy food and medicine. Local food pantries have had a hard time keeping their shelves stocked this year.

The United Way will accept contributions to this year's campaign through March 31.

The organization failed to meet its $1.01 million goal for 2010-2011, raising $935,216. Its 2009-2010 campaign brought in $1,142,858, less than its $1.2 million goal.

To learn more, visit UnitedWayofSEMO.org.

* The Visiting Nurse Association of Southeast Missouri has been named a 2012 HHCAHPS Honors recipient, an award recognizing home health agencies that provide the best patient experience. This annual award acknowledges the top 20 percent of agencies that continuously provide the highest level of satisfaction as measured from the patient's point of view. The HHCAHPS Honors analyzes satisfaction measures covering performance and improvement of care during a 12-month period. The HHCAHPS Honors rankings were compiled from survey results of more than 1,800 home health agencies from April 2011 to March 2012. The Visiting Nurse Association of Southeast Missouri is a not-for-profit organization that covers 13 area counties.

Southeast Missourian Business Editor Melissa Miller can be reached by email at mmiller@semissourian.com or by phone at 388-3646.

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